Editor’s Note: This op-ed was authored by Brooklyn District Leader Henry Butler
Local Law 152 was passed by the New York City Council in 2016 as part of a gas safety package and implemented with the very best of intentions, to protect New York City Residents. Local Law 152 went into effect January 1, 2019. The Department of Buildings (DOB) issued final rules on September 23, 2019. The rules became effective November 2, 2019; however, due to the provisions of the rules, no inspections could begin until January 1, 2020.
Even more concerning is the lack of DOB notification, which the law does not require. Homeowners only became aware of the law this past October when they started receiving solicitations from Master Plumbers. Here we are 11 months later, 10 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and property owners could be hit up with fines of up to $10,000. It is time to put a brake on the implementation of Local Law 152. The Law is good, but the timeline and implementation not so much.
Under Local Law 152, all buildings, except for buildings classified in occupancy group R-3 (2 Families or Less), must be inspected by a Licensed Master Plumber, and the compliance mandate falls on the property owner. By the way, this law does not exempt Houses of Worship. In a time when Houses of Worship are stretched to their absolute limits, Houses of Worship must be fully compliant. What do they do? Pay for remediation if they can even find a Licensed Master Plumber and re-allocate limited budgets as we move into the Holiday Season?
Legislation should be logical and with the best interests of the community in mind. Local Law 152 was put in place with best intentions – certifying that gas lines are compliant. The plan was put in place and ready then came something no one anticipated – the onslaught of the COVID 19 pandemic. In an age of social distancing, do we not reset the law for the immediate safety of building owners, their tenants, plumbers and city inspectors?
Several hundred homeowners and Houses of Worship in Community Boards 1, 3 and 10 may soon be impacted by Local Law 152. Is there really any way all of these buildings can be inspected by a licensed master plumber by the end of December? Will short term fixes become the norm rather than quality remediation?
We need legislators to work with building owners and not against them. With the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, all members of the New York City community have never found themselves in tougher times – that includes: building owners, tenants, small businesses, congregations, inspectors, licensed master plumbers, and lawmakers.
Let’s be flexible and extend the compliance deadline, issue clear communications, put a brake on Local Law 152 then restart the engine with a fully developed, realistic, implementation plan – a plan that helps all New Yorkers during these most challenging of times. A reset is a great way to work for a better future for the New York community as we look forward to a much better and prosperous 2021.
Henry Butler is the Democratic District Leader of the 56th Assembly District in Brooklyn.